Climate change already impacts and threatens billions of lives, with billions more on the line: it is those that have done the least to cause climate change that are most impacted, especially women, Black, Indigenous Peoples, and people of colour, peasants and rural people, youth, people with disabilities, local communities and frontline communities.
The climate crisis also amplifies the structural inequalities and injustices that have been hardwired into our economic and political systems that have resulted in a spiralling debt crisis, Covid vaccine apartheid and growing inequality and poverty.
Governments in the UNFCCC have repeatedly failed to deliver meaningful and just outcomes that will keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius despite growing urgency: time is running out.
Countries of the global North have the greatest historical responsibility for emissions and have grown rich through centuries of colonisation and exploitation of communities and nations in the global South. These countries, including the US, Canada, UK, Australia, Norway, Japan and those in the EU must finally do their fair share to address the climate crisis and pay their climate debt without delay.
Throughout the existence of the UNFCCC, governments have moved from policies, to empty pledges, to press releases and proclamations made outside the negotiations process that mean they cannot be held to account for failing to meet them. “Net zero” pledges without concrete plans to achieve Real Zero emissions, without adequate legally binding commitments to protect human rights, are simply greenwashing, a smokescreen hiding the intent to continue polluting and digging the graves of our present and future generations with impunity.
People are tired of waiting for governments to prioritize people and the planet over profits while so many lives are being impacted and lost. We are out of time and out of patience.
We therefore demand:
Global North countries pay their climate debt:
They must do this by providing new and additional short and long term finance, based on the needs of the peoples of the Global South, balanced between mitigation and adaptation. The first immediate step is for these countries to fix the broken commitment of delivering the inadequate $100 billion in public finance by 2020.
Deliver a Global Goal for Adaptation:
And rapidly scale up finance for adaptation based on the needs of those most impacted.
Address climate injustice and pay up for Loss and Damage:
Delivery of additional finance for Loss and Damage based on needs is made and honored. The Santiago Network on Loss and Damage must be operationalised by no later than COP27.
Urgently deliver your fairshare of action:
Governments must ensure that their emission reduction targets are sufficient to meet the 1.5°C target by urgently strengthening 2030 targets to rapidly reduce emissions to Real Zero, fully in line with each countries’ fair share.
Reject False Solutions:
Governments must categorically reject false solutions and the “net zero” plans that disguise intentions to continue polluting . This includes offsetting, carbon markets, carbon capture technologies, nature based solutions, geoengineering, climate smart agriculture, and others that are inherently ineffective,unjust, and destructive.
No trade off of Human Rights:
Governments must keep the promise of the Paris Climate Agreement and ensure that these rights remain central in the outcomes of COP26 including the rights of Indigenous Peoples, peasants rights, Gender rights, rights of people with disabilities, workers rights.
Big Polluters removed from this Process:
Parties to the UNFCCC should officially and permanently remove Big Polluters from deliberations where they consistently undermine, weaken, and delay meaningful policy outcomes. And develop paths for the liability of polluters to make them pay for the crisis and repair the damage they have done.
Deliver Just Transitions:
Parties must deliver just transitions as defined in the Paris Agreement with reference to decent work and quality jobs. Labour rights are human rights and countries must guarantee full engagement of workers and their unions through social dialogue processes in raising climate ambition and the creation of decent work, quality jobs, social protection and universal public services.
Co-operation and Solidarity
A justice transition must also result in collaborating to rapidly share technology and finance to implement real, proven, and people-centered solutions at scale. This must involve a “fair share phase out” to equitably eliminate fossil fuels from the global economy in time to limit warming below 1.5°C, with developed countries taking the lead on a rapid and just phase out of fossil fuel production, while supporting developing countries to do the same. It also requires transforming energy and food systems that empower people and communities, ecological restoration, and food sovereignty. It is vital that these transitions honour and protect the traditional knowledge, practices, and territories of indigenous peoples and local communities.
Do not exclude the People:
Prioritize an inclusive, democratic and just UNFCCC process that recognises and respects all rights-holders. This requires the meaningful inclusion of Persons with Disabilities by recognizing them as a formal constituency.
The time for words without action has come and gone. We no longer have the luxury of time to sit back and allow governments and private interests to destroy our future. Scientific predictions are increasingly dire; it is not hyperbolic to assert that the very future of humanity depends on the outcomes of these negotiations. Governments must immediately heed the growing demands of those already facing crisis and those who will face crisis and bravely reimagine our world in a way that guarantees everyone the right to live with dignity and in harmony with our planet.
As social movements and civil society organisations, we exist to uphold the centrality of life, people and planet, and fight until we win a better existence for all. It is our duty to tell the truth about the world we all share and the crises that engulf us. This is the truth about COP26.
Even before it began, COP26 was presented as a resounding success. Those of us who could find a way around the vaccine apartheid, “hostile environment”, constantly changing quarantine rules, challenges of visa processing, and exhorbitant prices which made the ‘most inclusive summit in history’ the most exclusionary ever, found ourselves locked out of the negotiations. Meanwhile the fossil fuel industry and other merchants of misery had a red carpet welcome, and made up the single largest delegation at COP26. We came to Glasgow and found ourselves in Davos, policed heavily while the criminals were feted.
For days we were force-fed long pronouncements, speeches and declarations from so-called world leaders in government and business, who descended in their private jets and broke the rules the rest of us were expected to comply with to tell us to applaud them. But being honest we must say these statements are delusions – a distraction from the truth, and a dangerous one at that. For the richest countries, the relationship between affirmation and action doesn’t exist. The ugly reality is that developed countries are all in favour of climate action — as long as they don’t have to do much of the work themselves.
Year after year we have tried to intervene as these negotiations drift further away from their purpose. The process, stacked as it is in favour of the powerful, has not led to binding commitments to keep temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius and the redistribution of resources to ensure a just transition, but instead to flexible and voluntary “contributions” misaligned with science and divorced from justice. Across three decades in this process we have witnessed polluters’ great escape, an historic shifting of burden from rich to poor, from those who created these injustices to those upon whom these injustices are forced. There may be some language in some texts that have been the smallest of victories but 26 consecutive COPs have in practice ignored the need to pay the outrageous historical debt owed to the global south by the global north.
Instead there is an endless parade of false solutions, empty promises and fake, opportunistic announcements empty in their content and dangerous in their implications. Marked by corporate capture, the very talks that are meant to foster global collaboration to address climate change have now become the main vehicle for corporate and government “greenwashing.”
COP26 marks the zenith of a new era in the sorry saga of international climate politics,marked by cynicism, corporate capture and state complicity in the expansion of the death machinery of fossil fuels that is a death sentence for millions of Indigenous Peoples and local communities across the global south that already are living the worst impacts of climate change. The age of climate denial is over; the era of climate colonialism is upon us.
Developed countries speak with a forked tongue about urgency and ambition. The only urgency and ambition they feel is to maintain their domination of the rest of the world, its people and resources. They make headlines by pledging to do something at some point in the future, but wriggle out of any system to hold them to account.
Instead of clear rules and commitments based on science and equity, they set about creating loopholes and carbon markets to “offset” rather than cut emissions, by commodifying nature and shifting burdens through carbon trading to the South — burdens that will be disproportionately forced onto and violate the rights of women, youth, Indigenous Peoples, and frontline communities. Under the cover of “nature-based solutions,” they advance large scale biomass burning, carbon storage technologies, the commodification of the ocean, and practices that will displace food production and force continued deforestation.
They talk about how important climate finance is, and how they can’t leave the vulnerable to suffer. The repeatedly broken promise of $100 billion per year, which is a mere fraction of the amount they are obligated to provide, makes a mockery of this. Instead of making clear commitments to deliver new climate finance in line with the unfathomable need of developing countries, they roll out the carpet for the financial industry to profit even more from climate breakdown.
Developed countries keep talking about how adaptation and redressing loss and damage are crucial, yet continue to avoid any liability and block finance for the communities on the frontlines from harmful impacts. So instead of a multilateral agreement that puts forward a clear path to address the climate crisis, we are left with a document that takes us further down the path of climate injustice.
Therefore, we, the undersigned global civil society organizations and social movements demand:
No more “net zero” lies and empty promises. We demand pathways that urgently and justly deploy real, people-centered solutions to get us to Real Zero by 2030 in developed countries and by 2050 in developing countries.
No more false solutions such as carbon markets and geoengineering which waste time, displace communities, and destroy ecosystems for the profit of polluters and allow wealthy countries to escape their responsibility.
Real solutions to really address the climate crisis must be on the basis and in benefit of local and indigenous communities and grassroots organizations avoiding large scale, extractivist and corporate control projects.
Polluting governments and corporations must pay for the damage they cause. The industries that have fueled the climate crisis, funded climate denial, and blocked action for decades must be held liable. This means ensuring that they are held criminally and financially responsible, and that they are made to end their abusive practices.
Rapid and equitable phase out of fossil fuel production and consumption through a just transition, with each country committing to and delivering on their fair shares of climate action based on historical and continuing responsibilities to benefit local and historically displaced grassroots communities. Clear targets and timetables including for the immediate and near term period to reach global real zero by 2050.
Urgent delivery of climate finance – way beyond the unfulfilled $100 billion per year target, that is sufficient and responsive to the actual climate needs of people and local communities in the Global South. Climate Finance should be public, non-debt creating, and its delivery must follow an inclusive process that will ensure that the contributions are based on equity and fair-shares, and without conditions. Climate finance must include coverage of Loss and Damage. A separate dedicated finance facility must be set up to meet this obligation.
Addressing climate change requires honouring these demands, and profound social transformation in all countries and at all levels – local, national, and global. This will not happen without massive mobilization of people everywhere, south and north. Join us as we step up our efforts to build and exercise the power of collective action, in different forms at various fronts and arenas, in different levels – local, national & global – at a scale never seen before.
Africa Europe Faith Justice Network
African Center for Advocacy
Ähtärinjärven luontoyhdistys ry
Akina Mama wa Afrika
Aksi! for gender, social and ecological justice
American Jewish World Service
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development
Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development
Asociacion Ambiente y Sociedad
Asociacion Miriam para la promocion intelectual de las mujeres – chak ukiyem kino”jib”al kech ixoqib”
Asociacion Nacional de Mujeres Rurales e Indigenas-
Campaign against Climate Change
Censat Agua Viva – Amigos de la Tierra Colombia
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera, Inc. (CDPC)
Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines Inc.
Centre for 21st Century Issues
Centro de Desarrollo Humano. CDH
CESTA Friends of the Earth El Salvador
Chitambo Development Foundation (CHDF)
Climate Emergency Unit
Climate Smart Missoula
Climate Watch Thailand
Colectivo CASA – Colectivo de Coordinación de Acciones Socio Ambientales
Colectivo de Geograrfía Crítica del Ecuador
Conservation Farming Trust
Coordinadora Ecuatoriana de Organizaciones para la Defensa de la naturaleza y el medio ambiente
Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa
Corporate Europe Observatory
Dalit Community Foundation (DCF)
Enda Graf Sahel
Equipo de Colaboración y Reflexión ECORE
Friends the Earth Spain
Friends of the Earth Canada
Friends of the Earth Europe
Friends of the Earth International
Friends of the Earth Scotland
Fundación Grupo Efecto Positivo
Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature
Global Forest Coalition
Global Fund for Community Foundations
Global justice ecology project
Global Justice Now
Gramin Evam Nagar Vikash Parishad
Green Climate Campaign Africa
Greens & Grains Trading Ltd
Haïti Survie / FOE-Haiti
HELP INITIATIVE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND HUMANITARIAN DEVELOPMENT
Himalaya Niti Abhiyan
Huitaca pacto por la vida y por la paz
Indian Ocean Climate Network
Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation
Instituto para el desarrollo y la paz amazonica
International Network of Liberal Women
International University Network on Cultural and Biological Diversity (IUNCBD)
Jordens Vänner / Friends of the Earth Sweden
Juventud Ecologista en Acción
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE)
Koalisi Rakyat untuk Hak atas Air (KRuHA)
La Ruta del Clima
Marcha Mundial de las Mujeres Chile
Milieudefensie / Friends of the Earth Netherlands
Mines mineral and people
Movimiento Ciudadano frente al cambio climático MOCICC
Mutinondo wilderness ltd
Nadi Ghati Morcha-India
National Association of Women’s Organisation in Uganda (NAWOU))
National Indigenous Women Forum (NIWF)
Observatorio de Ecología Política de Venezuela
Ole Siosiomaga Society Incorporated (OLSSI)
Pakistan Fisher folk Forum
Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee
Plataforma Boliviana Frente al Cambio Climático
Plataforma Latinoamericana y del Caribe por la Justicia Climática
Proyectando un Ambiente y Sociedad verde A.C.
Red de Estudios y Empoderamiento Afrodescendiente-RedAfros
Red Nacional de Mujeres en Defensa de la Madre Tierra – RENAMAT
Redes Friends of the Earth Uruguay
Regional Centre for International Development Cooperation (RCIDC)
Rising Tide UK
SALVAGINAS Colectivo Ecofeminista
Save Estonia’s Forests (Päästame Eesti Metsad)
Sierra Club BC
Socialist Party (India)
South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE)
Tierra Nativa / Amigos de la Tierra Argentina
UC Santa Barbara Environmental and Climate Justice Hub
Como movimientos sociales y organizaciones de la sociedad civil, existimos para defender la centralidad de la vida, las personas y el planeta, y luchar hasta lograr una existencia mejor para todes. Es nuestro deber decir la verdad sobre el mundo que compartimos y las crisis que nos envuelven. Esta es la verdad sobre la COP26.
Incluso antes de que comenzara, la COP26 se presentó como un éxito rotundo. Les que pudimos encontrar una forma de evitar el apartheid de las vacunas, el “ambiente hostil”, las reglas de cuarentena en constante cambio, los desafíos del procesamiento de visas y los precios exorbitantes que hicieron de la “cumbre más inclusiva de la historia” la más excluyente de la historia; hoy nos encontramos excluidos de las negociaciones. Mientras tanto, la industria de los combustibles fósiles y otros comerciantes de la miseria tuvieron una bienvenida con alfombra roja y constituyeron la delegación más grande en la COP26. Llegamos a Glasgow pero parece que nos encontramos en Davos, vigilados fuertemente mientras se agasajaba a los criminales.
Durante días estuvimos forzades a escuchar largos pronunciamientos, discursos y declaraciones de los llamados líderes mundiales de gobierno y el sector privado, quienes llegaron en sus jets privados y rompieron las reglas que se esperaba que cumpliéramos el resto de nosotres para decirnos que los aplaudiéramos. Pero, siendo honestos, debemos decir que estas declaraciones son mentiras y una peligrosa distracción de la verdad. Para los países más ricos, la relación entre afirmación y acción no existe. La fea realidad es que todos los países desarrollados están a favor de la acción climática, siempre y cuando no tengan que hacer mucho del trabajo ellos mismos.
Año tras año hemos intentado intervenir a medida que estas negociaciones se alejan cada vez más de su propósito. El proceso, apilado como está a favor de los poderosos, no ha llevado a compromisos vinculantes para mantener las temperaturas por debajo de 1,5 grados centígrados y la redistribución de recursos para garantizar una transición justa, sino a “contribuciones” flexibles y voluntarias desalineadas con la ciencia y divorciadas de la justicia. A lo largo de tres décadas de este proceso, hemos sido testigos del gran escape de los contaminadores, un traspaso histórico de la carga de los ricos a los pobres, de aquellos que crearon estas injusticias a aquellos sobre quienes se imponen estas injusticias. Puede haber algún lenguaje en algunos textos de negociación que han sido pequeñas victorias, pero 26 COP consecutivas han ignorado en la práctica la necesidad de pagar la escandalosa deuda histórica contraída por el norte global con el sur global.
En cambio, hay un desfile interminable de soluciones falsas, promesas vacías y anuncios falsos y oportunistas vacíos en su contenido y peligrosos en sus implicaciones. Marcadas por la captura corporativa, las mismas conversaciones que están destinadas a fomentar la colaboración global para abordar el cambio climático se han convertido ahora en el vehículo principal para el “lavado verde” de las empresas y los gobiernos.
La COP26 marca el cenit de una nueva era en la lamentable saga de la política climática internacional, marcada por el cinismo, la captura corporativa y la complicidad estatal en la expansión de la maquinaria de muerte de los combustibles fósiles que es una sentencia de muerte para millones de pueblos indígenas y comunidades locales en todo el sur global que ya está viviendo los peores impactos del cambio climático. La era de la negación del clima ha terminado; la era del colonialismo climático está sobre nosotros.
Los países desarrollados hablan con una lengua bífida sobre la urgencia y la ambición. La única urgencia y ambición que sienten es mantener su dominio sobre el resto del mundo, su gente y sus recursos. Aparecen en los titulares al comprometerse a hacer algo en algún momento en el futuro, pero se escabullen de cualquier sistema para exigirles cuentas.
En lugar de reglas claras y compromisos basados en la ciencia y la equidad, se propusieron crear vacíos legales y mercados de carbono para “compensar” en lugar de reducir las emisiones. Al mercantilizar la naturaleza y trasladar la responsabilidad al Sur mediante el comercio de carbono, la carga es impuesta de manera desproporcionada violando los derechos de las mujeres, los jóvenes, los pueblos indígenas y las comunidades de primera línea. Bajo el disfraz de “soluciones basadas en la naturaleza”, promueven la quema de biomasa a gran escala, las tecnologías de almacenamiento de carbono, la mercantilización del océano y prácticas que desplazarán la producción de alimentos y forzarán la deforestación continua.
Hablan de lo importante que es la financiación climática y de cómo no pueden dejar que los vulnerables sufran. La promesa repetidamente rota de $ 100 mil millones por año, que es una mera fracción de la cantidad que están obligados a proporcionar, se burlan de esto. En lugar de hacer compromisos claros para ofrecer nuevo financiamento climático en línea con la insondable necesidad de los países en desarrollo, extienden la alfombra para que la industria financiera se beneficie aún más del colapso climático.
Los países desarrollados siguen hablando sobre cómo la adaptación y la reparación de pérdidas y daños son cruciales, pero continúan evitando cualquier responsabilidad y bloqueando las finanzas para las comunidades en la primera línea de los impactos dañinos. Entonces, en lugar de un acuerdo multilateral que presente un camino claro para abordar la crisis climática, nos queda un documento que nos lleva más lejos por el camino de la injusticia climática.
Por lo tanto, nosotres, las organizaciones de la sociedad civil y los movimientos sociales globales abajo firmantes exigimos:
No más mentiras del “cero neto” y promesas vacías. Exigimos caminos que implementen de manera urgente y justa soluciones reales centradas en las personas para llevarnos a un Cero Real para 2030 en los países desarrollados y para 2050 en los países en desarrollo.
No más soluciones falsas como los mercados de carbono y la geoingeniería que hacen perder el tiempo, desplazan a las comunidades y destruyen los ecosistemas en beneficio de los contaminadores y permiten que los países ricos escapen de su responsabilidad.
Las soluciones reales para abordar realmente la crisis climática deben estar sobre la base y en beneficio de las comunidades locales e indígenas y las organizaciones de base, evitando proyectos de gran escala, extractivistas y de control empresarial.
Los gobiernos y las corporaciones contaminantes deben pagar por el daño que causan. Las industrias que han alimentado la crisis climática, financiado la negación climática y bloqueado la acción durante décadas deben ser consideradas responsables. Esto significa asegurarse de que se les haga responsables penal y financieramente, y de que se les obligue a poner fin a sus prácticas abusivas.
Eliminación rápida y equitativa de los combustibles fósiles a través de una transición justa, con cada país comprometiéndose y cumpliendo con su parte justa de la acción climática basada en responsabilidades históricas y continuas para beneficiar a las comunidades de base locales e históricamente desplazadas. Objetivos y cronogramas claros, incluso para el período inmediato y a corto plazo para alcanzar el cero real mundial para 2050.
Entrega urgente de financiamiento climático : mucho más allá del objetivo no cumplido de $ 100 mil millones por año, que sea suficiente y responda a las necesidades climáticas reales de las personas y las comunidades locales, comunidades en el Sur Global. El Financiamiento Climático debe ser público, no generar deuda, y su entrega debe seguir un proceso inclusivo que asegure que las contribuciones se basen en acciones y participaciones justas y sin condiciones. La financiación climática debe incluir la cobertura de pérdidas y daños. Debe establecerse un mecanismo de financiación exclusivo para cumplir con esta obligación.
Abordar el cambio climático requiere respetar estas demandas y una profunda transformación social en todos los países y en todos los niveles: local, nacional y mundial. Esto no sucederá sin una movilización masiva de personas en todas partes, en el sur y en el norte. Únase a nosotres mientras intensificamos los esfuerzos para construir y ejercer el poder de la acción colectiva, en diferentes formas en varios frentes y escenarios, en diferentes niveles (local, nacional y global) a una escala nunca antes vista.
The UK is hosting COP26, an annual United Nations climate change summit, in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, posing both a local and global public health risk (as of the middle of October, the UK was recording 50,000 new cases per day).
It didn’t have to be this way. The inability for COP26 to be held safely is a direct result of the “vaccine apartheid” which countries like the UK, US, EU, Norway and Switzerland have imposed by taking positions against a World Trade Organisation patent waiver on COVID-19 vaccines and refusing to support technology transfer or manufacturing programs that would enable vaccine access in the Global South.
Delegates from developing country governments as well as civil society observers (who as well play an essential role in disseminating information, acting as a watchdog, and providing critical support to developing country governments) have been raising logistical, health and safety related questions with the UK Presidency for months. However guidance on issues such as COVID vaccines, quarantine periods and costs has often been insufficient, unclear, or too late. Half-measures to address questions of equitable access, such as waiving standard quarantine periods, do nothing to solve the underlying vaccine equity issues. The consequence is that many developing country governments and frontline communities are effectively being prevented from attending the summit. While every COP is exclusive and inequitable to a degree, COP26 is so exclusionary that it risks being seen as completely illegitimate and has diplomats talking about a collapse of the talks. As a result, a large swathe of civil society groups who normally follow and participate in the talks issued an unprecedented call for talks to be delayed again.
Hosting COP26 is a major PR opportunity for the UK government which seeks to appear as a “world leader” post-Brexit. The order from the top of the UK government to event planners was therefore to only plan for an in-person COP in Glasgow this November rather than consider calls to delay the event for a second time. This is in keeping with the UK government’s negligent response to the COVID pandemic, and with its attitude more generally: the short-term objectives of the ruling Convervative Party are put before other considerations like public health.
The UK vision for COP26 is primarily concerned with securing a positive image for itself rather than securing the best possible outcome from the negotiations. The main prong of the UK strategy is to corral countries into “following the lead” of the UK and announce a net zero 2050 target – something which is deeply inequitable and which does not meaningfully contribute to the reductions necessary to meet the Paris Agreement global temperature goal of limiting warming to 1.5C. Membership of this “net zero club” will be used as a benchmark for whether a country is a “leader” and those countries who do not join will be labelled “laggards” in much the same way the US-led “high ambition coalition” ran interference during Paris COP21.
The UK is also keen to land headlines on the “end of coal” and on its domestic policies related to vehicles (specifically the phase out of the sale of diesel cars) as well as announcements related to deforestation/afforestation and, crucially, has called on other countries to make increased pledges toward climate finance. The “coal, cars, canopy and cash” announcements will be used to label COP26 as a success. This will be a smokescreen. In reality, for any COP to succeed, countries must put people and the planet before profit by committing to a global plan for a justice transition, uprooting the systems of injustice that have created these crises to guarantee everyone the right to live with dignity in harmony with our planet. A more accurate measure of progress (rather than “success”) at COP26 is outlined in the box below.
Indicators of progress at COP26
Rich countries pledge real zero 2030 targets with real plans – in line with fair shares for 1.5C – rather than the delay and greenwash of “net zero” 2050 targets.
Countries define a process to measure progress towards the Global Goal on Adaptation and ensure adequate financial and technology support is available.
Rich countries pledge to cease public subsidies for fossil fuels and instead scale up the levels of new and additional public finance (not debt creating loans nor market mechanisms) in line with the trillions of dollars developing countries need.
Rich countries agree to provide additional public finance to support those bearing the brunt of losses and damages from climate breakdown today to help them recover and rebuild their lives.
Countries abandon the false solution of offsetting and carbon markets and make a serious effort to advance real solutions via non-market cooperative approaches.
Countries commit to develop a global plan for a rapid justice transition away from fossil fuels and other extractive, large-scale and corporate controlled false solutions, whilst tackling inequality and prioritising sufficiency and well being.
The rocky road to Glasgow
Due to deep divisions and disagreements at COP25 in Madrid in December 2019, many agenda items did not reach any conclusion and so, according to the (draft) UNFCCC Rules of Procedure, had to be automatically taken up at the next session. However, due to COVID-19, the next session could not take place in 2020 as scheduled, nor could COP26 which was delayed from November 2020 to November 2021. Parties were unable to meet physically and so instead met in an “informal” virtual format from 31 May – 17 June 2021. These meetings of the permanent “subsidiary bodies” to the Convention (the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA)) were meant to advance work ahead of COP26, but because of their virtual format were not allowed to produce draft decisions or negotiating text for COP26. Instead, they could only produce “informal notes” which do not have any status and are not supposed to be the basis for textual negotiations going forward.
These meetings were marred with all manner of technical and logistical issues from connectivity, to poor quality audio, to time-zone differences which all negatively impacted the talks. Some developing countries were unable to join due to power cuts, reinforcing their view that virtual meetings are not conducive to highly technical discussions. The session also saw many of the same old tensions emerge on each of the agenda items and in general, including a perception among developing countries that the issues were taken up in an imbalanced way, with topics such as finance, adaptation and loss and damage dealt with only superficially and/or pushed to Glasgow or taken up by the COP presidencies’ virtual processes.
Big issues at COP26
The issues being debated in the UNFCCC are recurring and best seen in the context of a long-term struggle between the Global North and Global South over who should take responsibility for tackling climate change and its impacts, which plays out at political levels as well as across all the technical negotiating items.
Limiting temperature rise to under 1.5C
In their 2018 Special Report on 1.5C, the IPCC said that global emissions must immediately start decreasing by 7.6% annually in order to have any chance of limiting temperature rise to 1.5C. Global emissions would need to be cut by a total of 50% by 2030, and continue their downward trajectory towards real zero (rather than “net zero”) . However by the UNFCCC’s own estimate, the countries’ current “Nationally Determined Contributions” would, if met, only result in a total of 12% reductions by 2030 and would see the world warm a devastating 2.7C by 2100. For a 66% chance of staying below 1.5C, total cumulative CO2 emissions must not exceed 230 gigatons. This is about five years of current emissions.
The NDCs therefore need to be drastically improved, with each country taking on its “fair share” of the collective effort, according to their “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” as stated in the Convention and the Paris Agreement. However, for developing countries, that extra effort is conditional on finance and technology being made available to them. Article 4.7 of the UNFCCC states that “The extent to which developing country Parties will effectively implement their commitments under the Convention will depend on the effective implementation by developed country Parties of their commitments under the Convention related to financial resources and transfer of technology and will take fully into account that economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of the developing country Parties.” Which is why it is essential that COP26 secures a positive outcome on climate finance (more below).
Because it was obvious even in 2015 that the NDCs were inadequate, the Paris Agreement established a mechanism for all countries to raise their level of ambition, known as the “Global Stocktake”. The first stock take is scheduled to commence post-COP26 and conclude in 2023, and will be based on the best available science and the principle of equity. In June, discussions led to a “non-paper” which includes a set of “guiding questions” for the Global Stocktake concerning topics such as past and present trends of greenhouse gas emissions, financial barriers facing vulnerable countries, and loss and damage. Countries have already agreed to include input from non-state actors.
Adapting to climate change
Rich countries have utterly failed to limit their pollution (despite knowing for decades the negative effects it causes) while also failing to support poor countries in developing in a clean and pro-people manner instead of with fossil fuels. As a result, the world is already 1.1C warmer than a couple of hundred years ago. While efforts to cut carbon pollution must be pursued vigorously, the reality is that societies have to adapt as best they can to the warming that has already occurred, something the UNFCCC recognises and which is discussed under the broad theme of adaptation.
The United Nations Adaptation Gap report estimates that the annual cost of adaptation in developing countries could reach $140-300bn by 2030. However, the OECD estimates that climate finance in 2019 totalled $79.6 billion, of which just $20.1 billion was earmarked for adaptation. In another report by Oxfam, it was found that 80% of all reported public climate finance in 2017 and 2018 was not provided in the form of grants – but mostly as loans – and only 25% of funding was spent helping countries adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis.
The most recent round of meetings in June covered some individual agenda items dealing with adaptation, such as the review of the Adaptation Fund, matters relating to Least Developed Countries, and the Nairobi Work Programme on impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation. While individual agenda items can be useful it is necessary to provide coherence over the broad matters of adaptation and work towards substantive outcomes at COP26.
One such outcome would be to put into action the Global Goal on Adaptation, by defining the Goal and a process to measure progress towards it. Developed countries – who want Nationally Determined Contributions to solely focus on mitigation, and leave adaptation, losses and damages and support for developing countries out – are opposed to formalizing a Goal. Agreeing on such a common goal however would allow evaluation of progress globally that should be defined both by the people and communities who are affected by climate change and by national data, and the Goal should be integrated into national policy frameworks in a way that makes sense given the context. However, in order to meet the Goal countries will need additional finance, capacity and technology support. COP26 should encourage pledges towards this.
Addressing and repairing climate impacts
Because rich countries have not only failed to cut their own pollution, but have also failed to help vulnerable countries and people adapt to climate change, we must now face up to the environmental, economic, social, cultural and impacts from climate change to which we can’t adapt. This is what policy-makers and experts refer to as “loss and damage”. Small island nations first raised the alarm back in 1991, but were fobbed off with insurance schemes. Nowadays insurance providers won’t cover for many of the effects of climate change as they have become too frequent or too certain. So while the UNFCCC has agreed that rich countries should provide climate finance for adaptation and mitigation, vulnerable countries are fighting for support for those recovering from climate disasters and slow-onset impacts.
At COP19 in Poland, poor countries and climate justice groups successfully fought to create an international mechanism for loss and damage. However, the rich countries did not allow Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) to work on its mandate of “action and support”, as a result limited progress was made on the critical issue of facilitating financial support to poor countries so that they can recover from the climate impacts.
While rich countries are also being hit by the climate disasters, they have resources to help their citizens deal with the impacts and rebuild their lives. But, when it comes to supporting developing countries, rich nations have sought to keep the entire issue of loss and damage relegated to a mere technical matter.
The projected economic cost of loss and damage by 2030 is estimated to be between $290 and $580 billion in developing countries alone. COP26 must decide to provide additional, sufficient and needs-based Loss and Damage finance, on the basis of equity, historical responsibility and the polluters pays principle, and must also establish a process to identify the scale of funding needed to address Loss and Damage as well as suitable mechanisms to deliver the finance to developing countries. The outcome must then be presented next year at COP27 in Egypt to start delivering Loss and Damage finance.
In Glasgow, countries will also discuss how to operationalise the Santiago Network for Loss and Damage (SNLD), established at COP25, with a decision on its form, functions, budget, and a process for its ongoing development. The SNLD is the first step in establishing the implementation arm of the Warsaw International Mechanism. A comprehensive decision and new and additional funding needs to be put in place at COP26 to make the network operational.
Scaling up finance for climate action
In 2009, rich countries agreed to deliver $100 billion per year by 2020 by way of climate finance for developing countries. They did so in recognition of their undeniable and overwhelming share of historical pollution. The figure of $100 billion was politically derived and pales in comparison to the real needs which developing countries have to cope with climate change while developing sustainably. The UNFCCC itself estimates that developing countries would require $6 trillion by 2030 in order to be able to deliver less than half of their conditionally pledged climate action under the Paris Agreement.
Every COP since 2009 has reiterated the $100 billion/year goal, but over time the language has been watered down. Developed countries have changed the wording from “deliver” to “mobilise” and then “leverage.” These words sound synonymous but are not and the devil is always in the details. Loans (instead of grants) can result in compounding the injustice of the debt crisis faced by many developing countries. Academics and activists, as well as developing country delegates, have contested the methodology used by rich countries to demonstrate their progress towards this goal as it mostly includes loans, private finance and export credits – as well as funds for other development projects. Oxfam estimates that the true total for public climate finance in the 2017-2018 period was only $19 – 22.5 billion/year.
The Paris Agreement extended the insufficient $100 billion/year by 2020 goal for a further 5 years to 2025. But countries have not agreed on a future goal beyond that. At COP24 in Katowice they agreed to begin a process to set a new collective goal greater than $100 billion/year. In June they discussed the matter in a workshop and in Glasgow will consider the report from that workshop as well as discuss the “effectiveness” and “provision” of finance – how much money is flowing and what good it’s doing. However, developed countries are against talking about long-term finance and resist any attempt to assess their adequacy of their finance contributions, actually proposing to bring the long-term finance work programme to a close. They are also reluctant to honour the commitments they made in Article 9.5 of the Paris Agreement, to report and communicate in advance (ex-ante), indicative quantitative and qualitative information on the finance they will give to developing countries, including projected levels of public financial resources.
Developing countries have long stressed that their finance needs are far from being met from any source and that adaptation is chronically under-funded while there is simply no money for loss and damage at all. With things as they stand, they cannot fully implement their climate actions. The aforementioned UN assessment on countries’ current NDCs relies on full implementation by all developing countries. Without the needs of developing countries being met, temperatures will rise by at least 2.7C. In order to build trust at COP26, rich countries must agree to an operational definition of climate finance. They must also show developing countries that they will scale up these essential funds and commit to deliver the $2.5 trillion/year which UNCTAD estimates is needed for the coming decade. The sources of much needed public finance could be expanded by using mechanisms such as a climate damages tax, air passenger levy, or shifting fossil fuel subsidies.
Stumping up the cash is not a nice thing that rich countries do. It is their moral and legal obligation. By blurring the lines between themselves and developing countries, rich countries are trying to escape this responsibility. They would like to hide the fact that they are rich because of centuries of plunder and pollution. And they would like for poor countries to pay for the climate crisis despite not causing it.
Cooperative approaches to climate action
Since the early years of the UNFCCC, governments responsible for needing to make the deepest emissions cuts have repeatedly attempted to divert this responsibility. They have done so in several faulty and flawed ways: by creating and advocating for “market mechanisms” to trade units of carbon that allow the elite to keep polluting, by incorporating unproven carbon capture technologies into emissions reductions plans, and by advocating for “techno-fixes” including dangerous and untested geoengineering technologies.
The underlying feature of all of these is the principle of offsetting – outsourcing emissions to elsewhere (usually the Global South) or trading credits to buy permission to emit (usually the Global North). Offsetting emissions through market mechanisms is the antithesis to a true climate response from the global community, and from industrialized countries in particular. The science is clear: keeping warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius will require strong emissions cuts, beginning in the developed world, which needs to achieve actual zero emissions as soon as possible. Mechanisms that rely on offsetting delay meaningful action and don’t address the fundamental gap between the 1.5 degree target and countries’ weak progress in emissions reductions.
Furthermore, these mechanisms are rife with loopholes and often allow polluters to increase their emissions and profit from participating in such schemes, all while claiming the false banner of climate leadership. Meanwhile communities and countries in the South are left to shoulder the additional burden of doing the work those historically most responsible should be doing. Previous offset mechanisms under the UNFCCC were widely criticised for harming local people and violating human rights, especially the rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as failing to actually cut emissions. More recently, so-called ‘Nature Based Solutions’ have formed the battleground in the fight to extend the concept of commodification of carbon to all ecosystems, with soil carbon, biodiversity and other values being measured and commodified.
Article 6 of the Paris Agreement allows countries to “choose to pursue voluntary cooperation in the implementation of their nationally-determined contributions (NDCs) to allow for higher ambition in their mitigation and adaptation actions and to promote sustainable development and environmental integrity,” and to engage “on a voluntary basis in cooperative approaches that involve the use of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes (ITMOs)” which can count towards their NDCs so long as they promote sustainable development, avoid double counting and ensure environmental integrity.
The door was thus opened to conflate carbon trading and offsetting with “cooperative approaches” to tackling climate change. The reference to “ITMOs” has also opened the door for the establishment of an international carbon market – contentious given the years of debate on this matter never arriving at an agreement, and laden with pitfalls and risks.
There is no agreement on what exactly are ITMOs and this lack of agreed definition poses the difficult question of what activities and their outcomes a country can use to fulfill its Paris pledge. Can they, for example, be used in the global offsetting scheme under the International Civil Aviation Organisation, known as ‘Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation’ (CORSIA), which is not under the UNFCCC and which could potentially rely on 2.6 billion tonnes of ‘credits’ from supposedly avoided deforestation. Using these credits would potentially allow emissions to increase in addition to the pledged level of a country’s Nationally Determined Contribution. Similarly, can carbon credits from other schemes outside the Paris Agreement also be traded alongside credits generated in the Paris Agreement? Such schemes include the reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation or REDD+ scheme, also highly criticised for leading to increased emissions and harm to forest communities and indigenous peoples.
Rather than focus on more meaningful, equitable methods of cooperation like technology sharing, capacity building, and finance, developed countries especially the European Union insist on setting up a UN-managed carbon market scheme under Article 6.4 that would be compatible with its own regional emissions trading (EU-ETS). If it is established, this mechanism is likely to fail to deliver the emissions reductions outlined in countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement.
Negotiations on the “rulebook” for Article 6 collapsed at both COP24 and COP25, with key sticking points including whether to allow “carryover” of carbon credits generated under a previous market mechanism, how to avoid “double counting” of emissions reductions, how to define project baselines and additionality, how to count the outcomes of activities that cannot be directly measured in greenhouse gases such as geo-engineering projects, whether to include REDD+, and how to ensure environmental integrity and social environmental safeguards including protecting human rights. Market fundamentalists will want to leave Glasgow with detailed technical guidelines to allow them to forge ahead with international carbon markets. Others, notably those who are facing existential threats from climate crisis and who do not stand to profit financially from these market mechanisms, will want principled guidance to try and ensure that if, or when, international markets are established they are strictly regulated and most of all do not increase emissions, nor threaten human rights or environmental integrity. Keeping climate action focused on emissions cuts and phasing out fossil fuels means opposing outright any attempt to negotiate an outcome on carbon markets.
However, Article 6.8 of the Paris Agreement does provide an opportunity to address the real drivers of emissions by advancing policies and practices via voluntary cooperation between countries. This could help deliver deep emissions cuts while advancing equity, environmental protection, and well being without relying on carbon markets. For years, outcomes advancing real solutions through Article 6.8 have been stalled in favor of outcomes that have solely focused on trying to agree rules establishing carbon markets under Articles 6.2 and 6.4. At COP26, groups are calling for a decision that swiftly operationalizes the advancement and implementation of real solutions via Article 6.8.
Transparency and timeframes
In addition to the above issues, there are still elements of the ‘Paris rulebook’ to conclude. The Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF) is one such issue. The ETF is essentially a set of fairly strict, complex reporting requirements that obliges countries to report on their emissions, their progress towards their NDCs, and the support they have given or received. While the ETF will apply to all Parties of the Paris Agreement, developing countries point out that the differentiated nature of their commitments and capacities mean that there should be both flexibility and enhanced support to help them meet these new requirements. During the June sessions, some developed countries objected to discussions on the provision of enhanced financial, technical and capacity building support for developing countries to cover the cost of ETF requirements. Developing countries found this problematic, especially since developed countries had around 6 years to learn how to comply with reporting rules under the Kyoto Protocol, yet are now telling developing countries to do the same by 2024.
Another as-yet-unresolved aspect of the Paris Agreement is the time frames for subsequent rounds of Nationally Determined Contributions. The first round of these pledges do not apply to the same time frame for all countries and now the debate is whether they should do so in the future. Some countries argue that because the NDCs are nationally determined, the timeframe in which they are enacted should be too. Others believe that without common timeframes it will be more difficult to align national targets with the collective global goals.
Currently negotiations are weighing up four textual options with another eight “proposals” from Parties listed in an annex. Parties will be requested, invited, or required to communicate their next NDC by 2025, and the period it would apply to would be one of four options: every 5 years; every 10 years; “5+5” (Parties would submit two 5-year NDCs every 5 years; or up to Parties to choose between 5 or 10 year time frames. While there is a willingness to reach a decision at COP26 the likelihood is that to progress there needs to be negotiation at a higher political level
Though not really a matter for negotiators, this week it was announced that the U.K. will pick up the UNFCCC mantle after Chile’s COP25 by hosting COP26 from 9th – 20th November 2020. Initially, Italy had also wanted to host, while there was a persistent claim from Turkey that they too wished to have the dubious honour of spending millions of euros to welcome 40,000 people for a fortnight of negotiations.
The country which hosts the summit has significant power in shaping the agenda and influencing the outcome—there is no such thing as a neutral host—and U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (currently a contender in the Tory Party leadership race) clearly views COP26 as an opportunity to boost his own brand and restore some diplomatic prestige to the U.K. in the aftermath of a rough few years of Brexit carry-on.
But hosting the summit is also a major deal for the U.K. climate justice movement—recently rejuvenated by Extinction Rebellion’s direct action tactics, Fridays For Futures/School Strike’s clear moral message, and both the U.K. and Global Green New Deal’s clarity of vision.
The opportunity is there – though by no means an easy one to take – to build the power of the UK climate justice movement. This has little-to-nothing to do with the technical process inside the COP and everything to do with the process leading up to hosting, the mobilizations, the narrative that gets shaped etc.
UK movements would do well to turn to previous COP host nations for examples of how, and how not, to make best use of the opportunity. It is a complicated affair.